If 2016 was a breakthrough year for Joseph Schooling, 2017 could see Singapore's swim king break more ground.
The 21-year-old Singaporean won five gold medals and set two individual championship records at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 swimming championships last March, before claiming Singapore's first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Rio Olympics in August.
And, if his performance at the Big 12 Swimming and Diving Championships in Texas in the United States was anything to go by, Schooling is set to make another big splash at the NCAAs next month.
The University of Texas at Austin (UT) undergraduate set two new individual meet records during the Big 12 championships and helped his team to a new 400-yard freestyle relay meet record on the last day of competition yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Swimming the lead-off leg, Schooling clocked a new personal best of 42.24 seconds to help the Longhorns clinch the race in 2min 48.66sec to better the previous mark of 2:49.17, set by a UT team in 2009.
Earlier in the four-day meet, Schooling had set new meet records in the men's 50-yard freestyle (18.76) and the 100-yard butterfly (44.06), the latter of which is just off his NCAA record of 44.01 established last year.
He also clocked 1:41.58 in the 200-yard butterfly heats yesterday morning, but scrapped the final to focus on the 400- yard free relay.
"I think I had a good meet overall. There were a couple of things that I tried in this meet in preparation for the NCAAs," Schooling told The New Paper yesterday.
"I will now sit down with Eddie (Reese, UT head swim coach) to discuss on how to approach the NCAAs."
The Singaporean is looking to retain his 100 and 200 fly titles at the NCAAs next month, as well as help UT in the relays.
American Olympic champion Tom Shields will be a big threat to Schooling in the 100 fly, after becoming the first swimmer to break the 44-second barrier in the event, with a new US Open record of 43.84 at the US Winter Nationals.
But Schooling feels that he is up for the challenge.
He said: "I was 0.05sec from my NCAA time last year (at the Big 12 meet) and I believe that doing a sub-43sec swim this year is within my reach.
"I feel good, much better than I was before last year's NCAAs, and even the Olympics.
"I've just got to continue doing what I have been doing and I will expect to have a good outing at the NCAAs."
Schooling revealed that Singapore Swimming Association technical director Sonya Porter, along with Singapore Sports Institute biomechanist Ryan Hodierne and a nutritionist, visited him in Austin, Texas, earlier this month to help him map out his season.
Schooling said: "What we have done so far is to work on the small goals at the bottom (foundational level).
"When all these are taken care of, everything at the top (level) will fall in nicely.
"I do feel that is working out really well for me, judging from the times I clocked in this meet, so I am looking forward to see what I can achieve next month."
This article was first published on February 27, 2017.
Get The New Paper for more stories.